Pei Wenping checked into the refugee camp here last September for very different reasons from those of most of the homeless ethnic Chinese from Vietnam he met after arriving.
Pei is Veitnamese and left Hanoi not because he was persecuted but because he was dodging the draft.
"I hate war," said Pei, 25, "and I was afraid of being drafted, so I fled to China."
Two years after the Chinese-Vietnamese war, southern China is becoming a small haven for Vietnamese draft dodgers, political malcontents and ordinary people who cannot get enough to eat in Vietnam's war-weary society.
At the Pingxiang camp, for example, 100 Vietnamese arrived in the first two weeks of January, according to officials in Peking, and another 2,000 to 3,000 refugees are said to be at the border ready to cross. The other two refugee centers in Guangxi received more Vietnamese than ethnic Chinese in 1980, officials said.
Almost as soon as they arrive in China, the Vietnamese want to leave for the United States, England or France, even though immigration laws in those countries are too restrictive to offer much hope for entry.
Refusing to resettle in China, they linger in refugee camps for months enjoying a larger rice ration and better shelter than they had in Vietnam.
Pei Guangjin, a former student who fled Haiphong last June and has lived in the Pingxiang center ever since, typifies the new breed of refugee China has to deal with.
He escaped Vietnam, he said, and now wants to leave China because he is seeking "a free life," a notion the other refugees seem to have difficulty grasping.
Asked what he would do if he gained such freedom abroad, Pei said, "Whatever the government asks of me."
Hundreds of Vietnamese refugees like Pei eventually ran out of hope last year and left for Hong Kong, trying to sneak in illegally in small fishing boats, officials said. They traveled overland from Pingxiang to the coast city of Bai Hai where they paid $200 to $300 to boat captains willing to navigate the several hundred miles across the Gulf of Tonkin to the British colony.
Until they reached that point of desperation, however, homeless Vietnmaese cost the Chinese government months of expensive hospitality -- a financial drain that is beginning to rankle Peking.
In January, Peking asked the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for extra aid to house and feed the new "transit refugees" seeking temporary sanctuary.
"So far the Chinese have been very good about accepting them [the Vietnamese refugees]" said a U.N. refugee official. "But it costs a lot of money and China has many other needs. This worries the Chinese."